Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Michael Matthias, Vinnie Jones, Rachelle Leah, Michael Madsen, DMX, Katherine von Drachenberg, William McNamara, Armand Assante
Directed by Charlie Picerni
Get a load of the cast assembled for The Bleeding. Vinnie Jones and Kat Von D as evil vampires. Michael Madsen stealing the film as a gun-toting, vampire-hunting, cowboy hat-wearing priest. Former UFC ring girl Rachelle Leah as a tough chick party girl that gets mixed up in the whole vampire mess when she and her BFF are lured to a nightclub where a vampire king intends to put the bite on unwillingly recruits for his growing army of bloodsuckers. Armand Assante as a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him cop. DMX as, uh, a guy that looks and sounds like DMX who knows a lot about vampires and challenges the undead to fight him with such taunts as “I got something for you. A good old fashioned ass kicking!” With a cast like that it shocks me to write that Tony Todd is nowhere to be found.
The star of this action-horror flick is relative newcomer Michael Matthias. I was surprised to learn he wasn’t a mixed martial artist by trade because he certainly has the buff, tattooed, chrome-domed look of an ultimate fighter. He’s not that bad, in all honesty, but his delivery often lacks the urgency or necessary bluster of a muscle-bound action hero. Talk of his dead brother, vampires, and having to save the world comes out sounding too laid back for its own good. This became a problem for me because the guy talks way too much for the film’s own good. There’s something to be said for the strong silent type.
When the director isn’t trying too hard to be stylish with little rhyme or reason and we’re not being treated to drawn-out montages of Matthias power-walking to pounding metal music, the character of Shawn Black is a virtual chatterbox, narrating his own journey via voiceover, constantly informing us what he’s thinking or where he’s driving to next and why. This isn’t Mickey Spillane; it’s a vampire-hunting action thriller tailored to the Spike TV crowd – enough with the voiceovers.
Shawn Black is a man on a mission that involves his soldier brother who vanished while fighting the war in Afghanistan and the war he now finds himself in the middle of that he sums up as “good and evil shit straight out of the Bible.” Black learns that his brother Cain has actually returned from Afghanistan a vampire king bent of world conquest. You would think their being brothers might add an extra level of drama to their conflict. Not so when you have Black saying things like “I don’t know how my brother got transformed into this pure and evil king, but if he is in fact evil – fuck him. He ain’t my brother no more.”
Vanilla Blade is really on a mission to find the movie’s plot. Shawn sets out to meet with someone; this always leads to a brief spurt of action. That person fills in a few more story blanks for him, and then Black sets off to meet with someone else to get some more info. The whole time Black is driving from place-to-place in pursuit of Cain, Cain is actually following him and attempting to kill everyone he’s previously come in contact with. They switch things up for the third act by having Black arrive somewhere Cain is to try and kill him and his bloodsucking peeps for a change.
Cain is played by Vinnie Jones as you’ve never seen him before: decked out in a black hat with long black hair and wearing a furry black coat. This attire actually makes the usually physically imposing Vinnie Jones appear not only less intimidating, I’ll go so far as to say he looks downright silly. Jones ends up looking like Mr. Hyde as a white pimp. How Jones keeps that hat on his head while speeding around in a Corvette convertible may have been the greatest vampire power of them all.
All in all, pretty weak vampires. They can walk around in daylight; yet, they cannot survive for long without their coffins. It never made much sense to me either. These vampires are also more likely to shoot you than bite you. That’s perfectly acceptable given Black’s favorite vampire-slaying weapon of choice is blessed hollow point bullets shot through the heart.
The finale with Michael Matthias and Rachelle Leah racing off in an 18-wheeler loaded with coffins fending off a convoy of armed vampires on motorcycles and SUVs led by a Vinnie Jones and Kat Von D in a flash sports car yelling “Kill him!” is almost enough to make up for the meandering nature of most that preceded it. The Bleeding spends two thirds of its running time stuck in first gear. Then, all of a sudden, it finally kicks into full gear for a few minutes, becoming a testosterone pumping mix of Blade and The Road Warrior that climaxes with a sword fight I’d compare to Highlander if not for the swords being swung looking more at home in the hands of He-Man and Skeletor than anyone with the name MacLeod. Where had all this energetic b-movie fun been hiding for the rest of the movie? My guess would be lack of budget.
A passable time waster at best; with a better script and action that didn’t just occur in micro bursts prior to the finale, it could have been the blood-soaked action-horror blast it wanted to be. The Bleeding just didn’t fully satisfy my bloodlust. Though it sure did try at the end.
2 1/2 out of 5
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